Former president Ilves not passing comment on UNSC seat

Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Reaction to Estonia's accession to the UN Security Council (UNSC) as a non-permanent member has continued through the weekend, from various quarters in Estonia, following Friday's vote at UN headquarters in New York.

However, one voice so far notable by its absence has been that of former president Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Ilves did not have time to pass comment on the news when it was announced, according to ERR's online news in Estonian.

Estonia received 132 votes at the 193-member general assembly in New York Friday, clinching over two-thirds of the vote needed to give it the seat ahead of Romania, the only other contry in the running for a non-permanent spot from the Eastern Europe group.

While Estonia's campaign to secure a seat on the scurity council, thought to be an invaluable development in raising the country's profile, security and experience, intensified from 2017, the decision to apply was first taken back in 2005. Toomas Hendrik Ilves was president for two terms, 2006-2016.

Ilves has long expressed skeptisim over Estonia's application to the non-permanent seat. One reservation about the role was that the five permanent members, China, France, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S., would be able to veto anything they wished, meaning that Estonia was unlikely to be able to influence things to its own advantage significantly.

Focussing on NATO and the EU would be more beneficial, he thought. The full potential of both supra-national bodies had not yet been met, from an Estonian perspective, he argued, in a 2016 interview with ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera".

"Thanks for your enquiry. Alas, his tight schedule does not give Toomas Hendrik Ilves the opportunity to provide comment," spokesperson Urve Eslas replied to an email sent by ERR's Estonian online news with questions on the matter.

Nonetheless, Ilves was active on his social media account at around the time the vote was announced, around lunchtime in New York or shortly before 7 p.m. Friday, Estonian time, it is reported.

At press time a glance at Ilves' current feeds on both the two major social media sites does not yield anything obviously referring to the UNSC seat either.

Estonia's current ambassador to the UN, Sven Jürgenson, was an external advisor to Ilves, 2006–2010.

The UNSC, which first convened in 1946, is a major UN body tasked with overseeing international peace and security and accepting new members to the UN amongst other things. It has the authority to establish peacekeeping operations and international sanctions, as well as to allow military actions via resolutions. It is the only UN body whose decisions are binding on member states.

Thus the UN Global Compact for Migration, not being a UNSC agreement, is non-binding.

In 2003, the U.S. and U.K. governments argued that the invasion of Iraq by those countries' armed forces that year was implicitly authorized by the UNSC, though explicit authorization for the invasion from the UN as a whole was never given.

There are 10 non-permanent members on the security council, bringing the total to 15 including the permanent members. The non-permanent members serve two-year terms, with five switching out every year. Thus Estonia replaces Poland in the Eastern Europe group, and Niger, Tunisia, Vietnam and St. Vincent and Grenadines are joining it for the 2020-2021 term.

Substantive decisions by the UNSC require a minimum of nine affirmative votes to pass. However, a single veto from any permanent member trumps this, regardless of the number of votes received.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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